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Monday 25 November 2013

West London Thames Path walk, Naked Ladies, real fires and ale...

A visit to my brother, the Routemeister, will more often than not include a long walk, usually 12 to 20 miles long, and a few fine ales, and, now we're approaching Winter, real fires... So why should this visit be any different? The evening before the walk we popped into the Bricklayers Arms in Putney, and also following the walk, before me returning to the Junction to catch a train home.

The Bricklayers (site) is a fine pub that I've written about many times, and they appear to work on getting 5 to 10 ales from a microbrewer at a time, so you usually find at least 3 or 4 from the same brewer when you visit, among their dozen ales on offer, often, 2 or 3 from the last brewer they selected too. Their last brewer appeared to be Hobsons, from whom they had their 3.2% Mild, 3.6% Twisted Spire, a 'blond' beer with a slightly nutty flavour, and the very good Old Henry (5.2%), a "rich autumn ale". 

Their next brewer is the Kent brewer Goody, with many "good this and good that"; over the two visits I tried the very good Good Heavens, a 4.1% 'best bitter', tasted like a typical bitter from the South East, nice deep copper colour. My second one was Goodness Gracious Me, a 4.8% pale bitter with a nutty aroma that reminded me of the Belgian lambics in a way, with a slightly sour taste, pretty good stuff too, apparently, a green hopped ale. 

We also sampled Mulberry Duck Amber Sparkle, a 4.1% light malty dry bitter, and Wildflower, a darker 4% bitter; and Red Squirrel Conservation Bitter, a copper coloured sweetish fruity ale, at first taste, with a dry bitter aftertaste, not bad at all. 

Our lunchtime 'port of call' was the Waterman's Arms in Richmond, a wonderful Youngs house (site), kept to a high standard by the Irish landlord and lady, which we used to enjoy Thai food at quite regularly, before cutting back on our expenditure due to necessity. The usual Youngs ales here, always kept in great condition, Special and 'Ordinary' Bitter, and the seasonal Winter Warmer, but their 'guest ale' outstrips sales of the pub company's own ales, ie Twickenham Naked Ladies

Naked Ladies is pretty much a local ale, certainly much more local than Bedford brewed Youngs these days, and pretty damn excellent too! I'm sure it used to be called "3 Naked Ladies", and surely the pump clip included the image of 3 naked ladies on it (all very tasteful of course), but now just the one on the pumclip, despite the plural in the name; maybe a modern day Mary Whitehouse complained or something? Anyway, this is a 4.4% pale bitter, very nice and bitter too, cheers!  

We then walked up to Richmond Park, leaving the Thames Path, crossed the Park, and then crossed Wimbledon Common to visit one of two Youngs pubs, we gave the Hand in Hand a miss, mostly because last time we visited the Crooked Billet (fire therein above), situated in Crooked Billet, Wimbledon Common (site), a few doors down from the Hand in Hand, they had the Naked Ladies too, and we wanted to carry out a  taste comparison. 

Anyway, no Naked Ladies this time, sadly, but the usual Youngs Bitter, Special and Winter Warmer, Wells Bombardier, and Courage Directors, all brewed by Wells these days, of course. We had a pint each of the Special, and it was in very good condition, a nice pint indeed, which it still can be, many thanks, but not as good as the Naked Ladies, oh well...  


Tuesday 19 November 2013

Excellent Welsh Ales... TRUE!

I was reminded yesterday evening that I hadn't written a blog for a while, sadly, other commitments had filled my time, but I'm still here! 

So, to the subject headlined, and it is true! I've never found Welsh ales that much to my liking, excepting the odd one here and there, or ales from the Swansea brewer, Tomos Watkin, who do brew very good ales. The last time I drank Watkin's ales was before a match at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, at the 'Nationalist' Cayo Arms nearby.  Sadly, this is now a Marstons pub, so no more Watkin ales there then...  

However, ales from the Newport brewer, Tiny Rebel (website) have found their way to East Sussex, and I have been very pleasantly surprised, they do brew some very good ales, indeed! Yesterday evening, at the Tower, London Road, Hastings St Leonards, I had a few pints of their Hank, a pale and hoppy 4% bitter with a pronounced grapefruit aroma, very good, and competing with the excellent Dark Star ales, Hophead and APA, and competing well too. I've also recently drank Tiny Rebel Billabong, an "Aussie Pale Ale" (presumably Australian hops used) at the Tower, another excellent pale bitter, this time 4.6%, only £2.70 a pint, with more body, obviously, and peach, as well as grapefruit, flavours and aroma, cheers Louisa!

Of course, the new 2014 CAMRA Good Beer Guide entrant, has also been serving up more local ales too, and others from afar, including, locally, 1648 Gold Angel, a 5% pale golden bitter; Franklins Viva La Rye, a 4.3% very dry pale bitter with a hint of roasted malt; the very new Bedlam Hoppy Golden Ale, an ale that does what it says on the pumpclip, it's hoppy and golden, slightly sweet at first taste, but then becoming dry and bitter; oh yes, and they currently have Dark Star Six Grain, a 4.8% bitter, which is maltier than you would usually expect from a Dark Star ale, must be all that grain... and from afar? Well, in addition to the Tiny Rebel brewery ales, I have to add a comment of the Marble Beers, 5.9% Dubber, all the way from Manchester; and I have to add a further note, their pub, the Marble Arch on the Rochdale Road up there, is always worth a visit if you are in that area at any time, I love the place, interesting exterior and interior, excellent food as well as ales, and I have great memories of toons on the juke box too!   

Whilst we're talking about Tiny Rebel, I had the Billabong at the Albatross Club (RAFA) in Bexhill on Sea too (the local CAMRA Club of the Year), very recently, at £2.80 a pint, more good value; £2.80 being the price of all their ales since their recent price increase, whatever the strength! Also, Old School (OSB) Absent, a 5.5% IPA at their regular Thursday "new brewery" event, a pale bitter, which was much too easy to drink for the strength, could be dangerous if sticking just to that ale and having a 'session'. Also, recent ales have included Black Paw Dark Seam, a 5% VERY dark bitter, lovely roasted malt flavour, with a bitter aftertaste, and Liverpool Craft American Red, a deep red, full flavoured bitter.

I also heard the news here from Peter, before seeing it in the local CAMRA publication, Sussex Drinker, that a merger of Franklins Brewery, Brighton Beer Company and WithSoul 'Cask and Craft', a specialist wholesale supplier of real ale, has been launched, with a new brewery in the near future. Things will change, obviously, so keep an eye out for their "plan to embrace the attitude, ingredients and flavour profiles of the progressive beer styles from Belgium, North America and beyond... in a way that respects the character and historical integrity of British ale." I'm looking forward to that!    

At the Dolphin in Hastings 'Old Town', Rock-a-Nore Road (the local CAMRA Pub of the Year), excellent ales keep on being served too, including the ever-excellent Stonehenge Ales Danish Dynamite (5%); Franklins Grumpy Guvnor (4.5%); Wadworth Blunder Buss (5%); the darker Old Knucker (5.5%) from Arundel brewery; Ramsbury Kennet Valley a 4.1% pale bitter with a slightly sweet aftertaste; and the very good pale 4.2% pale bitter Nuptu'ale from apparently always good Oakleaf Brewery.     

That's it for now, Hastings and East Sussex may not have the huge range of free houses and microbrewers that I used to be spoilt by when I lived in South Yorkshire, but in no way does it lack, as can be seen from above... so, enjoy your ale, cheers!

Wednesday 6 November 2013

More great ales and sunny too!


Memories! A walk along the seafront, westwards, 5 miles-ish, and I get to The Albatross Club, (RAFA) in Bexhill, and open to CAMRA members too, for a nominal entrance of £1, as are all guests, and to RAFA members free as well, obviously, (both of which I am a member of, by the way), and 4 lovely ales, usually, at a decent price, was £2.60 a pint; but from this week, £2.80 a pint, apparently...

I shan't mention the other, very good, ales on offer, but 2 excellent ales here! I have gone on about both a bit, particularly, the Green Hopped IPA from Dark Star (6.5%); so more can I say?!? And the Cascade hopped, Hastings 'Handmade' APA, a lovely pale, grapefruit flavoured bitter, and one from the local imbiber, and Hastings brewer, who recently won the "beer of the festival" in Eastbourne, nice one, and nice one...

Oops, thinking of 'champion brewer' Brett and Hastings Brewery, up t' Tower! They did have the excellent Oakham 20 Years (5.8%) on, which I have already reported on, surely... and Dark Star APA, at just £2.50 a pint, etc etc... but I have been back again (it's a hard life), and these were the ales on offer the second time,,,

Dark Star Hophead and APA, virtually 'regulars' and 2 great ales I regularly commend, and 2 other interesting ales too, the first of which was (for moi) Brighton Bier English Garden (3.8%), a "golden ale", that was very nice, and tasted like a 'typical South East England 'best bitter'. Also, Cottage Normans Conquest MM (5%), another 'traditional' tasting ale (the name appears to be more to do with the brewer's surname than Hastings!), though darker, a "Strong Premium Ale"; the name appears to be more to do with the brewer's family name (not 1066), and a full-bodied, darker ale, not bad!

Cheers for now!